We were lucky to catch up with Jaimie Miller recently and have shared our conversation below.
Jaimie , thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. Can you talk to us about your team building process? How did you recruit and train your team and knowing what you know now would you have done anything differently?
We did not have any employees when we first started. My business partner, Victoria, and I worked sunup to sundown every day of the week. We couldn’t afford to hire any employees in the beginning. It was exhausting, yet so rewarding. We did literally everything that needed to get done. We baked, rang out customers, made drinks, hosted events, wiped down tables, took out trash, painted walls, did the dishes, and fixed the toilets when they broke.
Our families and friends helped out when they could, which further fostered the idea of being a family-run, community based coffee house. When we were able to hire employees, we knew that maintaining that sense of family and community pride was essential. We knew that anyone who joined our team had to be accepting of everyone that lived in our community, regardless of race, religion, or orientation. We weren’t necessarily looking for certain skills or experience, because we knew that we could teach that on the job. We were looking for certain personalities. We always say that we can teach someone skills, but we can never teach a new personality.
It’s been six years since we opened our doors, and every time we interview someone new to join our team, we use the same interview technique. We sit down with the potential employee and just get to know them. We let them know our vision and what we are about, and see if they can match that energy. Well experience is a plus, we don’t let that set the bar. We want people who believe in our vision and want to join us on this journey that we created. We believe that on-the-job training is the way to go. As a bakery and coffee shop, we don’t mind getting messy! Everyone on the team learns how to do every job, from baking, coffee making, cleaning, and running the register.
I wouldn’t do anything different than how we have done it. That first year with just the two of us was very difficult, but we had a lot of fun and we learned so much. Being hands-on as owners is one of the reasons why our shop is so successful all these years later. It allowed us to patiently choose the very best team to represent the vision of our business.
Awesome – so before we get into the rest of our questions, can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers.
Between Friends Coffee is a Georgia-based coffee company that was founded in 2016. Since then, the company has won “Best of the Best Coffee Shop” every year, along with a slew of other awards and titles.
We are a 100% woman-owned non-franchise coffee shop, cafe, bakery, bookstore, and event center.
Between Friends began after we decided that our city needed a community gathering spot where everyone could feel welcomed. They bought some kitchen equipment from a closed coffee shop, found an abandoned yogurt shop, and turned it into the home away from home that it is today.
The goal of Between Friends is to encourage literacy across all age ranges in the community, while focusing on customer service, community involvement, and literacy programs. Between Friends is literary themed, meaning most of the popular drinks are named after an author and/or a book title. Literacy is something that my business partner, Victoria, and I believed was lacking in their community. The coffee industry was the perfect vehicle to bring people of all ages together to encourage a sense of empowerment.
We grew Between Friends Consulting from our thriving coffee shop and cafe, where we teach and encourage fellow business owners at all levels how to successfully navigate their own shops, restaurants, and bakeries. Together we also own Southern Willow Publishing, as books and coffee are the perfect blend!
I am most proud of our sustainability in this era. Many restaurants fold after the first few years due to a myriad of reasons. Then Covid was thrown into the mix in 2020. We continue to grow each year. Last year we were asked to join an international coffee conference where we teach classes on customer service, sustainability, and how to open a business for fellow entrepreneurs in the restaurant industry.
Let’s talk about resilience next – do you have a story you can share with us?
Coffee shops are a dime a dozen these days. We have had so many shops open in our area. We truly believe in community over competition, but I will admit that we get scared every time a new shop opens.
We have had two weather many storms, which all come naturally in the restaurant industry. Everyone battles issues on a day-to-day basis, but the big storms came during the coronavirus pandemic. We were forced to close our dining room to the public, which meant that we had to adapt literally overnight. My business partner stayed up all night and rolled out an online ordering platform where people could place their orders and pick them up curbside. It was the only way that we were able to pay our bills and keep our staff on payroll. We had to essentially learn how to roll with the punches. Supply chain issues are still hitting every industry, but especially the restaurant industry. We had to adapt recipes, find different suppliers, and come up with unique solutions to hard-hitting problems.
When it was difficult to source plastic and paper cups, we had customers bring in their favorite mugs and tumblers. We offered them a discount to bring in their own cups, which also helped the environment. We tried new drink recipes to bring people in, which also helped break the monotony of orders. We found ways to partner with fellow businesses in our city and formed groups and supply chains to cover for one another.
The Covid pandemic has truly taught us the meaning of community. Our community members showed up and showed out, which has kept us not only open, but thriving during this era of our lives. We have been able to give back to our beautiful community with food drives, book programs, and other projects and outreaches during the years thanks to their constant generosity and support.
Any thoughts, advice, or strategies you can share for fostering brand loyalty?
For us, it’s all in the name: Between Friends Coffee. We refer to our customers as Friends and our employees as a Team. Understanding and perpetuating our brand is key to success.
We are a literary themed coffeehouse where we feature one-of-a-kind specialty beverages. All of our coffee is locally roasted, freshly ground, and sourced through direct trade from around the world. Besides all things coffee, we offer specialty milkshakes, steamers, teas, lemonades, hot chocolates, Italian sodas, flavored water, bottled soda, etc! Our baked goods are made fresh daily and served alongside a full breakfast and lunch menu.
As avid readers, we wanted to share our love of books with the community. Discovering an author who writes to your soul is like finding a best friend. We are grateful for the opportunity to share some of our closest friends in the form of a replenishing drink. Hemingway, Pablo Neruda, Langston Hughes, Tolkien, Maya Angelou, Shakespeare, Harper Lee, and Jane Austen are just a few of the names you will see on our walls. We have relationships with many of the authors featured on our menu. Glennon Doyle, Bob Goff, and Somtow are just a few of our Friends!
We run thriving social media accounts, where we respond to every comment and/or message. We interact 24/7 on our social media channels. Just like any close friend, we are always within reach! Our community members have invested so heavily in us, that it is only natural for us to invest back in them.
- Website: www.betweenfriendscoffee.com
- Instagram: BetweenFriendsCoffee
- Facebook: Between Friends Coffee
- Twitter: BetweenFriendsC
- Other: Follow us on TikTok at Between Friends Coffee!
Between Friends Coffee